In October 2021, actor Alec Baldwin misfired a prop gun, resulting in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuries to director Joel Souza. According to a search warrant in Santa Fe court, the Assistant Director who handed the prop gun to Alec Baldwin did not know it had live rounds, leading to wrongful death.
Many believe that the incident and the production were riddled with legal issues by cutting corners and risking the crew members’ lives. Let’s explore the details with Ehline Law and our personal injury attorneys.
On October 27, 2022, the District Attorney’s office confirmed that they received an investigative report from the Santa Fe County sheriff’s office and will thoroughly review the information and evidence.
The Santa Fe sheriff’s office spokesperson told media that they provided two binders of information and evidence to New Mexico’s district attorney’s office, where Santa Fe First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies would make a timely decision on whether to bring criminal action.
According to a spokesperson of the district attorney’s office, Heather Brewer, the district attorney must handle the case like any other criminal case by upholding the integrity of the legal process and pursuing justice by enforcing New Mexico state laws if the evidence warrants criminal charges.
Earlier in 2022, Halyna Hutchins’ husband, Matthew Hutchins, settled the case privately with the productions team and stated that he had no desire to attribute blame in the incident that took his wife’s life.
He called the incident an unfortunate accident, and according to the settlement agreement with Rust Movie Productions and Alec Baldwin, he will now act as the executive producer and ensure that he and the team do justice to Halyna’s final work.
However, the team does not plan to return to the Bonanza creek ranch where the fatal shooting occurred.
The settlement agreement between Halyna’s family and the production has no impact on the criminal charges.
In a criminal case, it is important to note that the victims or the surviving family members can also pursue a civil suit against the negligent party to recover compensation for the damages.
However, a settlement or an award in a trial does not eliminate the criminal charges, and the government will prosecute the case as any other criminal case.
Civil cases differ significantly from criminal cases and provide relief or a legal remedy for the victims or the surviving family members. In most civil cases, the relief comes in the form of financial compensation.
A criminal case is between the defendant and the state. If there are enough evidence and facts beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty, the judge will uphold the state law, which could result in imprisonment, a fine, or a combination of both.
Although, in an interview last year, Alec Baldwin stated that his attorneys believe he won’t face any criminal charges following the accident, the District Attorney’s office has been preparing for the case for months.
The DA stated earlier that four people, including Alec Baldwin, could face charges and hired a special prosecutor for the case. The office even received $137,000 in funding to hire additional staff to help with the case.
The Rust shooting investigation handed over to District Attorney for possible charges could bring some closure to the case, which is much larger than what Alec Baldwin believes.
Law enforcement officers conducted their investigation by scrutinizing the actions of the individuals on the set, from the armorer who loaded the Colt .45 revolver to the assistant director who handed the gun to the actor, stating that it was a cold weapon.
Since the incident, Baldwin maintained that he never pulled the trigger but cocked the hammer. However, the FBI report suggests that the handler must pull the trigger for the weapon to work.
Baldwin’s attorney raised concerns over the submitted FBI report, stating that the gun was broken during FBI testing, jeopardizing the findings. Even New Mexico’s Office of the medical investigator called the incident nothing more than an accident.
According to the Santa Fe County sheriff’s office, there were more than seven live rounds in the cardboard box. The main question remains, who brought in live rounds and mixed them in the box containing dummy rounds?
If you lost a loved one due to another’s negligence, contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation, as you may be eligible for compensation.
Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.